Who pays top dollar?

Who pays top dollar? To the disappointment of postdocs, many institutions set their salaries according to the pay scale recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or lower. Surprisingly, however, many government research centers reported higher postdoc salary caps than those in industry or academia, with the highest paid postdocs making twice the $51,552 paycheck recommended by the NIH in 2009 for those with 7 or more years of experience.

Katherine Bagley
Feb 28, 2010

Who pays top dollar?

To the disappointment of postdocs, many institutions set their salaries according to the pay scale recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or lower. Surprisingly, however, many government research centers reported higher postdoc salary caps than those in industry or academia, with the highest paid postdocs making twice the $51,552 paycheck recommended by the NIH in 2009 for those with 7 or more years of experience.

Argonne National Laboratory, for example, had the second highest postdoc salary maximum at $95,700; Sandia National Laboratories the fourth at $80,000. Some private institutions do even better. Woods Hole Oceanographic...

But while government jobs may provide the highest financial support for more experienced postdocs, industry research offers the highest starting salaries—nearly $20,000 more than government jobs for first-year postdocs. Postdocs at Genentech in San Francisco start at $51,000; those at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., start at $55,000. In contrast, those at government-funded research centers start as low as $36,000.

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) is advocating for an increase in the NIH’s stipend scale, specifically in its base pay, says executive director Cathee Phillips. The NPA is asking Congress to appropriate funds to bring entry-level pay to $45,000. “We need to do more if we are to keep the best and brightest in the US scientific research enterprise,” Phillips says.

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